Political Science MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

UCL's PhD programme in political science is one of the most competitive in Europe. Small cohorts receive extensive training to prepare for senior positions in research, teaching, or applied for work in government, international organisations, private firms, and the third sector.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
Programme starts
October 2024
Applications accepted
All applicants: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Apr 2024

Applications closed

Entry requirements

The minimum academic requirements are an upper second-class Honours degree (or equivalent) and merit (or equivalent) in a recognised Master’s degree programme and a minimum 65% mark on the Master’s degree dissertation. At least one of the three has to be a first class/distinction (or equivalent). Students applying for the 1+3 without a Master’s degree will need to have a first-class Honours degree (or equivalent).

The English language level for this programme is: Level 5

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

The department welcomes research in all the major sub-fields of political science. This includes international relations, comparative politics, political economy, public policy and management, legal and political theory.

Who this course is for

Students who wish to pursue independent research as part of a close-knit academic community.

What this course will give you

Political science is a discipline with fast moving frontiers and a wide range of increasingly sophisticated theoretical and methodological approaches. To make our students competitive in the job market, our programme, therefore, offers one of the most comprehensive training sequences in the UK. 

PhD students are an integral part of the department's research community through participation in departmental research seminars, research clusters, joint teaching, and co-authoring. 

All students have a three-person supervisory team providing a breadth of inputs from different sub-disciplines and methodological approaches. 

UCL is a world-leading institution, ranked eighth best university globally in the QS World University Rankings 2023. Almost all of the department's research activity was rated as ‘internationally excellent’, and more than half of it received the highest grading of ‘world-leading’ in the Research Excellence Framework 2021, recognising the quality and impact of our research.

The foundation of your career

Our former PhD students have moved on to Assistant Professor/Lecturer and Post-doctoral fellowship positions in leading universities in the UK, Europe, and the USA (e.g. ETH-Zurich, Stanford University, University of Birmingham, University of Manchester, Bocconi University).


Our research students have entered a wide range of careers including leading academic positions, international organisations, private sector, third sector, and government.


Our graduate students attend and participate in seminars, workshops and conferences within the department and within interdisciplinary research centres across UCL, providing opportunities to network with leading academics across a variety of research fields.

Teaching and learning

Most of the three or four years during which you are studying for your PhD will be spent engaging in independent research in consultation with your supervisor. Regular meetings with this supervisor will inform the structure and timescale of your research. Your work and these meetings will be recorded in a compulsory research log, which allows you and the department to be sure that you are making appropriate progress.

As a PhD student, you are invited to attend Research Training Seminars. These seminars offer skills training and host research presentations from students in the later years of the programme; they are compulsory for you to attend until your upgrade. Many students later in the PhD process will continue to attend relevant sessions.

Training sequence for empirical stream:

  • PhD Research Seminar (required all years)
  • PhD Research Design Seminar (required Year 1)
  • Introduction to Quant Methods (required Year 1)*
  • Advanced Quant Methods (required Year 1)*
  • One Qual Methods seminar (required Year 1)
  • Topics in Political Science (required Year 1, 2, or 3)
  • Departmental Research Seminar (expected all years)
  • Research Cluster Seminar (expected all years)
  • Additional relevant training (expected Years 2 and 3)

Training sequence for theory stream:

  • PhD Research Seminar (required all years)
  • Political Theory Seminar (required all years)
  • Topics in Political Science (required Year 1 or 2)
  • Departmental Research Seminar (expected all years)
  • Additional relevant training (expected Years 2 and 3)

* Students arriving with previous training in quantitative methods will follow courses at more advanced levels. 

The PhD is examined by a viva committee comprising of two experts in the field, an external examiner and an internal examiner who is normally from the University College London. Your supervisor nominates suitable examiners during your final year, in consultation with you, and the nominations are scrutinised by UCL’s examinations office who may approve or reject them. The viva exam is a meeting in which the examiners and yourself discuss your work, both through direct questions and more informal conversation, and it normally takes two or more hours.

Most of the three or four years during which you are studying for your PhD will be spent engaging in independent research in consultation with your supervisor. Regular meetings with this supervisor will inform the structure and timescale of your research.

Research areas and structure

Academic staff have a strong record of research and publication within all the main subfields of politics, including:

  • British politics: constitutional and parliamentary reform; devolution; electoral participation; alternative electoral systems.
  • Comparative politics and government: democratisation; the politics of ethnicity; political campaigns and electoral behaviour; comparative urban, rural, and local politics; public opinion.
  • EU politics and public policy: decision-making and institutions; regulation and delegation; lobbying; constitutionalism; citizenship and democracy.
  • Human rights: human rights and globalisation; theories of human rights and justice; adjudication and interpretation; democracy, religion and human rights; global poverty and human rights; militias, non-state actors.
  • International relations: international peace and security; globalisation and global governance; international migration; international finance; international trade and investment.
  • Political economy: distributive politics in welfare states; political economy of development. 
  • Public policy: business-government relations; executive and bureaucratic politics; public ethics.
  • Political theory: the history of modern political thought; multiculturalism, toleration and citizenship; democracy and constitutionalism; contemporary political philosophy.

Research environment

The PhD programme in political science combines rigorous substantive and methodological training with independent research. Compared with similar PhD programmes in Europe, the programme has a particular emphasis on methods training. In addition, the department has a vibrant research environment centred around a series of seminars and institutes. Every week you will join academic staff members at the departmental research seminar as well as cluster seminars in specific research areas such as “Comparative Political Economy” and “Conflict & Change”. These seminars will complement your formal training by allowing you to comment on and learn about the research of internal and external presenters. PhD students at our department also have their own research seminar in which they present their work and receive feedback from both faculty and the other PhD students.  . Finally, the department also hosts speaker series through the Policy & Practice seminar series, the Constitution Unit and the Global Governance Institute. 

The length of registration for the research degree programme is 3 years with a typical one-year extension.

You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade viva 9-18  months after initial registration.  
Upon successful completion of your approved period of registration, you may register as a completing research student (CRS) while you write up your thesis.

In your first year, you will take non-credit bearing core modules that contribute to the research methods sequence. For students undertaking empirical political science research, the core modules are one qualitative methods course and Introduction to Quantitative Methods as well as  Advanced Quantitative Methods (depending on prior statistical training). Students are also expected to take an additional quantitative course in their second year. Students undertaking research in political theory take the political theory methods seminar. In addition, students attend a general research design course that is only open to first year political science PhDs and is co-taught by two members of the faculty. 

You will be required to complete two pieces of assessed work during the first year: one focusing on the existing theoretical literature in your area of study and the other on the methodological approach you plan to adopt in your project.

In years 2,3, and 4 you will continue writing your thesis. You are encouraged to present completed research at internal and external seminars and conferences, with the funding often provided by the department or other funding bodies. You may also take additional, non-credit bearing modules and courses where appropriate (e.g. ESRC Summer School, modules offered by other departments). Progress is monitored through a combination of supervisory meetings and presentations at the PhD Research Seminar. 

After three years, you may apply for additional 12 months (full time) to finish writing up your thesis. During this period, you will be registered as Completing Research Status (CRS). There are no student fees for CRS but you will continue to have full access to UCL facilities and services during this time. 


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035
Tuition fees (2024/25) £28,100

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

There are no additional costs for this programme.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

The department offers fully funded 4-year scholarships together with AHRC and ESRC Scholarships. For details on eligibility and application process, please refer to our departmental website.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Clara Collet Political Science PhD Award

Deadline: 08 December 2023
Value: Full fees plus stipend (Duration)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: UK, EU, Overseas

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Deadline: 12 January 2024
Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

Deadlines and start dates are dictated by funding arrangements, which are subject to change, so check with the department to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation.

Note that you must identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Got questions? Get in touch

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